The Eiffel Tower (French: tour Eiffel) is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.
The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which was to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution. Its construction in 2 years, 2 months and 5 days was a veritable technical and architectural achievement. “Utopia achieved”, a symbol of technological prowess, at the end of the 19th Century it was a demonstration of French engineering, and a defining moment of the industrial era. As France’s symbol in the world, and the showcase of Paris, today it welcomes almost 7 million visitors a year, making it the most visited monument that you have to pay for in the world.
Constructed from 1887–89 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and the tallest structure in Paris. Its base is square, measuring 125 metres (410 ft) on each side. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930. Due to the addition of a broadcasting aerial at the top of the tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres (17 ft). Excluding transmitters, the Eiffel Tower is the second-tallest structure in France after the Millau Viaduct.
The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level’s upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground – the highest observation deck accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator) to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the climb from the first level to the second. Although there is a staircase to the top level, it is usually accessible only by lift.
The design of the Eiffel Tower was the product of Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers working for the Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, after discussion about a suitable centrepiece for the proposed 1889 Exposition Universelle, a world’s fair to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. Eiffel openly acknowledged that inspiration for a tower came from the Latting Observatory built in New York City in 1853. In May 1884, working at home, Koechlin made a sketch of their idea, described by him as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals”. Eiffel initially showed little enthusiasm, but he did approve further study, and the two engineers then asked Stephen Sauvestre, the head of company’s architectural department, to contribute to the design. Sauvestre added decorative arches to the base of the tower, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other embellishments.
The new version gained Eiffel’s support: he bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier, and Sauvestre had taken out, and the design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1884 under the company name. On 30 March 1885, Eiffel presented his plans to the Société des Ingénieurs Civils; after discussing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower, he finished his talk by saying the tower would symbolise,
Not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.
Little progress was made until 1886, when Jules Grévy was re-elected as president of France and Édouard Lockroy was appointed as minister for trade. A budget for the exposition was passed and, on 1 May, Lockroy announced an alteration to the terms of the open competition being held for a centrepiece to the exposition, which effectively made the selection of Eiffel’s design a foregone conclusion, as entries had to include a study for a 300 m (980 ft) four-sided metal tower on the Champ de Mars. (A 300-meter tower was then considered a herculean engineering effort). On 12 May, a commission was set up to examine Eiffel’s scheme and its rivals, which, a month later, decided that all the proposals except Eiffel’s were either impractical or lacking in details.
After some debate about the exact location of the tower, a contract was signed on 8 January 1887. This was signed by Eiffel acting in his own capacity rather than as the representative of his company, and granted him 1.5 million francs toward the construction costs: less than a quarter of the estimated 6.5 million francs. Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and for the next 20 years. He later established a separate company to manage the tower, putting up half the necessary capital himself.
Work on the foundations started on 28 January 1887. Those for the east and south legs were straightforward, with each leg resting on four 2 m (6.6 ft) concrete slabs, one for each of the principal girders of each leg. The west and north legs, being closer to the river Seine, were more complicated: each slab needed two piles installed by using compressed-air caissons 15 m (49 ft) long and 6 m (20 ft) in diameter driven to a depth of 22 m (72 ft) to support the concrete slabs, which were 6 m (20 ft) thick. Each of these slabs supported a block of limestone with an inclined top to bear a supporting shoe for the ironwork.
Each shoe was anchored to the stonework by a pair of bolts 10 cm (4 in) in diameter and 7.5 m (25 ft) long. The foundations were completed on 30 June, and the erection of the ironwork began. The visible work on-site was complemented by the enormous amount of exacting preparatory work that took place behind the scenes: the drawing office produced 1,700 general drawings and 3,629 detailed drawings of the 18,038 different parts needed. The task of drawing the components was complicated by the complex angles involved in the design and the degree of precision required: the position of rivet holes was specified to within 0.1 mm (0.0039 in) and angles worked out to one second of arc. The finished components, some already riveted together into sub-assemblies, arrived on horse-drawn carts from a factory in the nearby Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret and were first bolted together, with the bolts being replaced with rivets as construction progressed. No drilling or shaping was done on site: if any part did not fit, it was sent back to the factory for alteration. In all, 18,038 pieces were joined together using 2.5 million rivets.
At first the legs were constructed as cantilevers, but about halfway to the first level, construction was paused in order to create a substantial timber scaffold. This renewed concerns about the structural integrity of the tower, and sensational headlines such as “Eiffel Suicide!” and “Gustave Eiffel Has Gone Mad: He Has Been Confined in an Asylum” appeared in the tabloid press. At this stage, a small “creeper” crane designed to move up the tower was installed in each leg. They made use of the guides for the lifts which were to be fitted in the four legs. The critical stage of joining the legs at the first level was completed by the end of March 1888. Although the metalwork had been prepared with the utmost attention to detail, provision had been made to carry out small adjustments in order to precisely align the legs; hydraulic jacks were fitted to the shoes at the base of each leg, capable of exerting a force of 800 tonnes, and the legs were intentionally constructed at a slightly steeper angle than necessary, being supported by sandboxes on the scaffold. Although construction involved 300 on-site employees, only one person died thanks to Eiffel’s stringent safety precautions and the use of movable gangways, guardrails and screens.
The puddled iron (wrought iron) of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons, and the addition of lifts, shops and antennae have brought the total weight to approximately 10,100 tons. As a demonstration of the economy of design, if the 7,300 tons of metal in the structure were melted down, it would fill the square base, 125 metres (410 ft) on each side, to a depth of only 6.25 cm (2.46 in) assuming the density of the metal to be 7.8 tons per cubic metre. Additionally, a cubic box surrounding the tower (324 m x 125 m x 125 m) would contain 6,200 tons of air, weighing almost as much as the iron itself. Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm (7 in) due to thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun.
When it was built, many were shocked by the tower’s daring form. Eiffel was accused of trying to create something artistic with no regard to the principles of engineering. However, Eiffel and his team – experienced bridge builders – understood the importance of wind forces, and knew that if they were going to build the tallest structure in the world, they had to be sure it could withstand them.
He used graphical methods to determine the strength of the tower and empirical evidence to account for the effects of wind, rather than a mathematical formula. Close examination of the tower reveals a basically exponential shape. All parts of the tower were over-designed to ensure maximum resistance to wind forces. The top half was even assumed to have no gaps in the latticework. In the years since it was completed, engineers have put forward various mathematical hypotheses in an attempt to explain the success of the design. The most recent, devised in 2004 after letters sent by Eiffel to the French Society of Civil Engineers in 1885 were translated into English, is described as a non-linear integral equation based on counteracting the wind pressure on any point of the tower with the tension between the construction elements at that point.
The arrangement of the lifts has been changed several times during the tower’s history. Given the elasticity of the cables and the time taken to align the cars with the landings, each lift, in normal service, takes an average of 8 minutes and 50 seconds to do the round trip, spending an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds at each level. The average journey time between levels is 1 minute. The original hydraulic mechanism is on public display in a small museum at the base of the east and west legs. Because the mechanism requires frequent lubrication and maintenance, public access is often restricted. The rope mechanism of the north tower can be seen as visitors exit the lift.
More than 250 million people have visited the tower since it was completed in 1889. In 2015, there were 6.91 million visitors. The tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world. An average of 25,000 people ascend the tower every day which can result in long queues. Tickets can be purchased online to avoid the long queues.